LIFF 27 - The Battery - Cinema Review

'Jeremy Gardner's script is regularly witty, authentic and well-structured; his direction skilful, crafting a palpable, believable zombie-infested New England'

The Battery is a prime example of a film being the victim of its own marketing. Touted as a new and different take on the zombie genre, much of the tone and perspective on a post-zombie-apocalypse world seen here can be pieced together from recent zombie offerings. To use a fairly blunt comparison, this is something like Zombieland meets 28 Days Later, although other clear influences include the likes of Shaun Of The Dead and Zack Snyder’s 2004 Dawn Of The Dead remake. This certainly doesn’t make The Battery a bad film, it just means that anyone going to see this on the promise of experiencing a wholly fresh and original zombie film might feel a little hard done by.

What The Battery should do is mark out Jeremy Gardner as a talent to watch. Gardner writes, directs and co-stars here, and impresses in all three roles. His script is regularly witty, authentic and well-structured; his direction skilful, crafting a palpable, believable zombie-infested New England, with the limited budget never limiting Gardner’s craftsmanship or invention.

The fact that the vast majority of the film focuses on just two characters, Ben (Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim), means The Battery’s success more often than not relies on the performances and chemistry from its co-leads. Thankfully this is never an issue, with both actors giving commendably strong performances, although Gardner is the more consistent and convincing of the two.

The film is at its very best when delivering nuggets of humour or imagination. A scene showing the pair vigorously brushing their teeth on a driveway after ransacking a house is a simple but very effective signifier of what has become important in everyday life. There are also some well-constructed comedy scenes throughout: Mickey making the most of his entrapment in a car by a female zombie pressed up against the window is particularly memorable, as is Ben using a captured zombie to help toughen up his travelling companion against his will.

The Battery’s less successful aspects are largely down to Gardner’s inexperience as a director, this being his inaugural film. Ben and Mickey spend most of the film wandering aimlessly, not aiming towards a particular goal or destination, which at times leaves the film in turn somewhat lacking in focus. Gardner introduces other survivors of the zombie outbreak here and there in the film, including references to a mysterious place called “the orchard”, but these elements are often left too underdeveloped to really take hold.

Gardner’s greatest mistake, however, is The Battery’s final act. The film shifts in style, which works initially but then stays with the same idea for much too long, knocking the momentum out of the story at precisely the wrong moment. It ends up feeling like Gardner is playing for time, delaying the ending of his film because he’s not sure exactly how to finish it. The Battery therefore comes to a close at arguably its weakest point; a shame, seeing as there is a great deal here to both enjoy and admire. It may not be an all-new take on zombie movies, but it’s certainly a worthwhile addition to the genre as well as an indicator of great things Gardner might very well be capable of doing as his career develops.

The 27th Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF) took place from the 6th-21st November at cinemas around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds Town Hall. More information is available via the official LIFF website.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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